St. Croix – The Virgin Islands will make history next month as it hosts its first-ever comprehensive talks on reparations. Some thirty of the Virgin Islands’ most astute thinkers will gather this November to deliberate the likelihood of political, social and economic redress for crimes against humanity committed in the Danish West Indies during the periods of slavery and colonization. The historic “Reparations Roundtable” will be a convergence of Virgin Islands Legislators, attorneys, grassroots organizers, academicians, and historians.
The reparations movement, once considered a fringe issue in the Black Nationalist community, is now firmly established among various constituencies in the United States, the Caribbean as well as in African communities around the world. Its ascendancy as an important social movement – arguably the most important since Civil Rights – is confirmed by its viability in congressional election campaigns, the ever-increasing amount of print space and air time the media has devoted to it, and its existence in international diplomatic relations. In 2001, reparations advocates were instrumental in petitioning the United Nations to declare the trans-Atlantic slave trade a Crime Against Humanity. Crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations, thus providing legal impetus to pursue restitution those responsible for slavery.
The event’s organizers, the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance (ACRRA), represents the coming together of a broad-based and diverse group of international organizations for the purpose of advocating reparations for the crimes committed against Caribbean people. The event’s immediate focus will be the people of the Virgin Islands.
The roundtable discussion, to be held on November 14th, has attracted the attention of a number of scholars, activists, and leaders in the U.S., Caribbean, and International communities. Distinguished among the attendees will be His Excellency, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, International Ambassador of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Prince Asiel is credited with being responsible for the successful resettlement of thousands of African-American families back to the African continent. In July of 2003 he was instrumental in negotiating the agreement which led to the Hebrew Israelite Community obtaining citizenship in Israel, more than three decades after their exodus from America in 1967.
Leading the Reparations Roundtable will be world-renowned foreign policy advocate Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, an organization promoting enlightened, progressive U.S. policies towards Africa and the Caribbean. His book, “The Debt”, published in 2000, captured the warrants for reparations in very clear and accessible language and aided in moving the discussion into the global arena. Among his achievements, Randall Robinson is known for spearheading the U.S. campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. His leadership in support of the pro-democracy movement in Haiti – which included a 27-day hunger strike - also caused the United States Government to lead the 1994 multinational effort to return to power Haiti’s first democratically elected government. He also fought passionately in the mid-90’s to thwart US attempts to end the Caribbean’s access to the European banana market.
Randall Robinson is an author whose works include national best sellers (I) Defending the Spirit, (II) The Debt – What America Owes to Blacks, (III) The Reckoning – What Blacks Owe to Each Other, and (IV) Quitting America – The Departure of a Black Man From His Native Land. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Twenty-one universities have bestowed upon him honorary PhDs in recognition of the impact he has had on U.S. foreign policy. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his global humanitarian work, and among the organizations that have honored him thusly are The United Nations, the Congressional Black Caucus, Harvard University, Essence Magazine Awards Show, ABC-News Person of the Week, The Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Change, the NAACP, and Ebony Magazine Awards Show, to mention a few.
He has presented his views on US foreign policy as well as the role of race in America on ABC’s “Nightline”, CBS’ “60 Minutes”, NBC’s “Today Show”, CNN, C-Span and other American television programs.
The event is being sponsored by senators of the 25th Legislature of the Virgin Islands and a number of local attorneys and business leaders.
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